As I turn into the corner the sleet blows directly into my face. The hood I am wearing for camouflage doubles as protection as I pull it further down. I notice that the last of the streetlights has given up the ghost so I tread carefully on the uneven pavement.
The flat is halfway along a neglected avenue which once had an air of victorian splendour. The communal door is unlocked so I step out of the street and rush up stairs to the first floor.
I knock. Two minutes go by. It concerns me that we leave people in the corridor for so long but none of them seem to be able to get to grips with the spy hole. As the door opens a crack the familiar sweet, pungent smell meets me as the smoke billows.
‘Who is it?’
‘Let me the fuck in.’
‘What’s the password?’
‘You little shit.’
I push the door open as Woody scuttles towards a hard backed chair in the corner of the room where he picks up his god forsaken banjo. Everyone has a nickname, for security purposes. He is called Woody due to him scrawling, with a black pen, across the body of the instrument – “this banjoe kills fascist”. Yes it’s written with the fucking ‘e’. He can’t spell but what he doesn’t know about electrics isn’t worth knowing.
‘How you doing Shakey? Fancy a drink?’
This is Bishy. The long sleeves of his unsecured double cuff drape into his concoction of cough mixture and vodka, or laudanum as he prefers.
We deliberately don’t get his self chosen moniker right, just to piss him off. He seems to think he’s Byron and Shelley all rolled into one. We all think the name is ironic given the sexual appetite of his namesake. Bishy has always got a notebook in his hand and regales us with his overblown vocabulary at every opportunity. That said, he scrubs up well and can be very useful when we need someone credible with authority.
On beanbags in another corner of the room are Bod and Stockholm, the most unlikely of couples. Bod, ex National Front, Bristolian accent, vegan, shaved head and a really poor tattoo on his neck covering his old badge of affiliation. He’s so proud of the design he doesn’t realise how shit it looks. No one dares tell him. He’s the muscle.
Stockholm dresses like someone out of the seventies version of the Red Army Faction, right down to the black beret. It’s rumoured amongst the group she carries a concealed knife which she enjoys using to worry men by placing underneath their balls when they get too familiar in a bar. As she’s batshit crazy no one dare ask whether it’s true. That said she can break into anywhere given a bit of time and the inclination.
‘So do you want a drink Shakey?’
That’s me Shakespeare, due to my english degree and, allegedly, my florid use of language.
‘No, I don’t want any of that shit? Where’s Dave?’
Bod points to a door on the wall opposite to where he’s sitting. The door is slightly cracked and I can hear a muffled voice. Dave, not his real name, is ex forces, tough as nails but, following what he’d seen abroad, a committed social activist.
“Hi, I’m Dave. I’m way too old for this shit but something’s gotta be done. As I look at the world scene, I get increasingly horrified. It’s utterly disgusting. I’ve been looking at the law and don’t think I’m going to be doing anything illegal. These dirty wrong uns are supporting state action against innocent, starving children and I can’t stand by and watch it happen anymore. I said I’d come on an do an interview but I can’t be arsed with ‘em. The time for talking has gone a little bit too far, yeah? I am deeply disgusted.”
‘Done yours yet?’
‘No Bod, that’s why I’m here.’
I walk towards the door, think better of disturbing Dave and stop.
‘Actually, what the fuck are you all doing here?’
‘The Colonel called us. You not get a message?’
‘No,’ I say looking at my phone. ‘Okay, that’ll be a fucking yes. Shit thing, the sound never seems to work on this bloody piece of crap.’
‘Now, now,’ Bod says with a big smile on his face.
Before I start taking the piss out of Bod and risking my very existence, I always forget he’s got little by way of sense of humour, the Colonel bursts into the room from the bog.
‘Is he here yet?’
‘Who Mr. Colonel?’ the room says in unison.
Colonel isn’t his code name but, although we’re a collective, he seems to think he’s the leader. He hates it but no one will drop it.
‘Creosote, you fuckers!’
‘No Colonel Sir!’
We all salute.
‘Fuck the lot of you.’
Dave appears in the room.
‘Can’t you keep the shitting noise down? I’m trying to get it right in there and can’t concentrate with you lot gobbing off.’
‘How are you getting on with it?’ I ask.
‘It’ll do. You next Shakey.’
Before I can take a step towards the room with the camera there is a knock on the door.
Bishy makes his way across the room, tripping over his own feet. He does his inept best to push the cover of the eye piece to one side before giving up and opening the door.
‘Geez.’ That’s the Colonel.
The door swings back and Creosote steps into the room, all 25 stone of him. He’s wearing a green t-shirt that’s ridden half way up his stomach. Emblazoned across the expanse of his chest, stretched as tight as physically possible, is an outline of America filled in with silhouettes of automatic rifles which carries the slogan “Dumbfuckisthan”. He wheezes hello, a fine figure of an urban warrior. As long as he lives, though, he is the man who can do anything with a computer.
‘About time,’ says Colonel, ‘let’s get down to business.’
‘I need a drink,’ Creosote splutters, ‘that’s a lot of stairs.’
‘What the fuck? You’ve done them often enough.’
‘You sure you’ve not added some?’
‘Don’t worry,’ says Dave, ‘I’ll get him one.’
Dave goes into the kitchen as Creosote lowers himself onto the sofa and the rest of us who aren’t sitting find a space.
‘Right..’ the Colonel starts.
‘Oi, wait for me,’ Dave shouts from the kitchen.
The room falls silent for a matter of seconds before Dave reappears.
‘Here Bod, I found these, thought you’d like ‘em. Catch!’
Two raw steaks fly though the air towards the shaven headed monolith in the corner of the room. Bod deftly avoids them as he stands up.
‘Come ‘ere you little fucker.’
Dave motions that he couldn’t be less scared.
‘Right I’m going rip your fucking head off.’
‘Stop!’ intervenes the Colonel, ‘sit down Bod, Dave give Creosote his drink and let’s get on with what we’re here for.’
Dave steps towards the sofa.
‘Here you go big fella.’
As Dave passes the can of drink he cracks it open and it sends a spray of sticky foam all of the big man.
‘You fucking c… What did you…?’
‘STOP! Sit down Dave, you juvenile git. Creosote you can clean up once we’re…’
Before the Colonel can finish.
‘Why are we here?’
‘I’m glad you ask Woody. It is time. I’ve determined that next week will be the best time for us to take out the factory. They have a winter shut down for maintenance so there’s only people there during the day.’
A murmur ripples around the room.
‘It’s what we’ve been working towards. I want those of you who haven’t done your bit to camera to get on to it tonight. The rest of us will start pulling together the materials we need.’
‘Don’t fucking call me that, unless you want to end up sucking your own cock without having to bend over.’
‘Sorry Stockholm. Point taken.’
The Colonel flashes a half arsed smile of apology before continuing.
‘You weren’t here Stockholm when I asked Creosote to research what materials we need to build the device.’
‘So Creosote what do we need?’
‘I didn’t do it.’
‘What do you mean, “I didn’t do it”?”
‘I was concerned I could be traced.’
‘Dunno. The Police? MI5? The fucking CIA? Someone who could track my searches.”
‘I thought you are meant to be our computer expert, surely you can avoid them.’
‘I dunno why you think I can. I’m not that good.’
‘Fucking hell. So you are here under a false premise. How did we ever find you?’
‘What Colonel? We went to school together, I’m your mate.’
‘Oh fuck, of course. Forgot myself. It’s the stress.’
‘You create your own stress. It’s not needed.’
We all turn towards the corner of the room, shrouded in shadows, where the voice came from. It’s Majority. We had almost forgotten he was there, not least because he rarely speaks. We named him after the silent majority but none of us really knows what his role is but there is a consensus that he is vital to the operation. When he does speak he can hold the room.
‘What?’ says the Colonel.
‘You’re creating your own stress. Don’t worry so much about things.’
‘But Creosote let us down.’
‘Try looking at this then.’
Majority flings a folder of photocopied pages on to a coffee table in the middle of the room. The Colonel picks it up and starts to leaf through what look like the pages of a book.
‘So, what is this?’
‘What you need. I found it in a junk shop in the old town. It’ll tell you everything you need to know.’
‘How?’ we all shout.
Majority takes a folded sheet of paper from the inside pocket of his jacket and passes it the Colonel.
‘Try this, it’s the title page.’
The Colonel takes the sheet of paper, unfolds it and reads the title out to the room.
‘The Anarchists’ Cookbook.’
Silence, glances pass between the throng of comrades. Bishy breaks the moment first in his inaccurate, drunken drawl.
‘Gah you facking taking the pish?’
Majority smiles and shakes his head.
‘Oh no. Trust me, this is all you need.’
It is one o’clock and this is the news.
Today the trial finished of seven activists on charges of conspiring to cause criminal damage at an arms factory during what they called ‘citizens decommissioning’ in response to the ongoing massacre of civilians in Yemen. After they ransacked the factory they lay on the floor to await arrest. Once picked up by police their filmed statement appeared on line, an excerpt of which we are showing now.
The activists faced the possibility of up to five years in jail if found guilty.
Although the defendants admitted they had sabotaged the factory their defence argued that the criminal damage was legally justified if it occurred while trying to prevent greater damage to other properties – in this case, homes in Yemen. Their defence was it can be lawful to commit an offence to prevent a more serious crime.
The footage being shown now is of the activists leaving court after winning their case.